By: Dan Barfoot
For men who had easily endured hardship, danger and difficult uncertainty, leisure and riches, though in some ways desirable, proved burdensome and a source of grief. The causes for the breakdown of the early Roman Republic cannot be attributed to a single event, trend or individual, rather it was due to a combination of all three in varying degrees. The principal and fundamental cause was the breakdown of the political checks and balances, particularly the Cursus Honorum from 133 BC onwards. This subversion occurred both accidentally and through the subversive behavior of individuals, unconsciously and consciously undermining the fabric of the republic in their quest for power and glory. One substantial outcome of this incapacitation was the emergence of violence as a political means. Once this had occurred the end of the old republic was heralded an autocratic dictatorship was born. The republic was born out of a collapsed monarchy and was specifically geared to prevent a centralization of power. The mechanisms to this end were contained in the Cursus Honorum, a document that outlined the ladder of offices. It demanded, among other things, 10 years of military or legal service before any magistracy could be held, annual election and two years between consecutive offices. This system was designed to ensure that no individual could become too powerful by dividing jurisdiction between several groups and allowing for veto. The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius are often blamed for causing divisions and antagonizing the aristocracy and particularly the senate by introducing laws and legislation that, although promoting egalitarianism for the poor, were catalysts to later breaches of the Cursus Honorum. Both Tiberius and Gaius had laws enacted without consulting the senate. This weakened the senate's power and started a trend of ignoring the senate that remained until the breakdown. These Graccian reforms included... [continues]
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